I would like to know whether the adage above could be translated into Latin to make it sound more profound. The user Sam K has suggested the following translation:

In interneto, nemo scit te canem esse.

Joonas Ilmavirta would prefer the calque interrete to interneto. Another option would be internexus.

Can you think of a way to improve it? It doesn't have to be verbatim.

My attempt follows. I used wiktionary and a large collection of latin quotes to assemble it, but my knowledge of latin grammar is still nil. Do you reckon it is adequate?

In internexus potes esse canis.

  • "incognito" ? – Hugh Sep 23 '16 at 10:14
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    'potes' means you have the technique to transform into a dog. 'licet' lets you do so. – Hugh Sep 23 '16 at 10:20
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    Some comments: 1) Your translation would mean you can be a dog on the internet, which is not quite the meaning of the original English wording, 2) I think Interrete is generally agreed to be the most accepted neologism to mean the Internet (although there are people with good reasons to disagree with its form), 3) That said, I would go with Joonas variant of Sam's translation – Rafael Sep 23 '16 at 13:19
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    A few years ago the expression "tela totius terrae" was in vogue, conveniently shortened to "ttt" to represent "www". – Tom Cotton Sep 24 '16 at 10:21

For someone who has "nil" knowledge of Latin grammar, I'm really impressed with your attempt: there's only one grammatical error and the meaning is fairly clear.

First, a grammar correction: internexus is presumably a neologism derived from nexus, which is the 4th declension. You will thus want to use the ablative singular form:

In internexu potes esse canis.

Literally, this translates as: "On the internet, you can be a dog." As @Rafael pointed out in his comment, this "can" refers to ability, not permission as can be the case in English. As it stands this is a reasonable attempt at translation, though I tend to think that the joke gets obscured ("you can be a dog...even though everyone thinks you're a human").

@SamK's translation is literal but perfectly good. I would just amend to the more commonly understood calque interrete:

In interrete, nemo scit te canem esse.

My proposed translation would rework this a little bit to a more idiomatic phrasing:

In interrete, canis et homo non distant.

On the internet, a dog and a man do not differ. (lit. "are not distant")


In interrete, canis ab homine haud differt.

On the internet, a dog is not different from a man.

or slightly more elliptical:

In interrete, canis non cognoscitur.

On the internet, a dog is not recognized.

I like the two last (bolded) suggestions best.

  • I thought of proposing canis non cognosceris (being a dog, you would not be recognized) but it struck me as a little off. Thoughts? – brianpck Sep 23 '16 at 13:53
  • Canis non cognosceris sounds fine to me. Canis non cognoscitur can also be read as "no one looks what a dog looks like". I would prefer the original ACI structure or nemo te canem scit/cognoscit if that's grammatical. (+1 of course) – Joonas Ilmavirta Sep 23 '16 at 14:10
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    I love the last one. I'd also offer In interrete canis ab homine non internoscitur or canis et homo non internoscuntur. – Joel Derfner Sep 25 '16 at 8:06
  • One of the issues with your suggestions is that element of surprise in the original is missing. It's the unexpected punchline to a straight-faced joke. I think normal idioms wouldn't work, as they seem too much like a proverb, losing the humor in translation—as translation is wont to do! – C. M. Weimer Jan 4 '17 at 0:52

I think all Brian's suggestions are wonderful. I'd just add one more:

In interrete, canis ab homine non discernitur.

On the internet, a dog isn't told apart from a man./On the internet, you can't tell a dog from a man.

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